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TobyNotJason

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  1. TobyNotJason

    Steamboat and Youngblood

    I had watched the Final Conflict match about two weeks before finding WTBBP and listening to Jerry and soup's review, and I spent most of that listen shaking my head. Maybe it helps that I had watched all TV and the build, but the lengthy "wrestle down" (as against "beat down") shine segment vs. Kernodle (and then, it's worth noting, vs. Slaughter for 5 minutes) was, to me, a masterstroke. This was a monumental match, and monumental matches have more leeway than some studio match or feud-continuer WRT formulas. The domination of Kernodle and frustration of Slaughter was all about showing that, indeed, Steamboat and Youngblood were decisively better in a "fair wrestling match". And not merely in the manner connoted by a typical 5 minute shine. No, this was a shine designed to build crowd heat in an unconventional, backwards way. It was about generating mounting enthusiasm for a stretch of dominance southern tag team wrestling fans pretty much never got to actually see, despite implicitly imagining it every time they cursed a heel team for taking shortcuts. As far as the criticism that the style of offense was too technical, it's who they were. They were not thuggish brawlers, they were scientific wrestlers. That was kind of the point of the feud. The cage wasn't about them wanting to kill Slaughter and Kernodle. It was about the backstory of the "rightful" wrestling champions constantly being foiled by the low down cheating ways of Slaughter and Kernodle. That first 15-20 minutes was the proof that Steamboat and Youngblood were better at wrestling. They weren't just so happening to get the better of a relatively brief exchange at the start of the match (a la classic STT formula), which could (kayfabe) happen randomly between teams of similar "ability", or even sometimes with a team of lesser "ability". And I ate it up, every spoonful.
  2. TobyNotJason

    Championship Wrestling from Florida

    I just watched maybe 30-40 discs of Florida. Sadly it skewed disproportionately to late 1984 and 1985. The Freebirds came in at the beginning of that period but honestly felt "tired"- nothing like the buzz of their heel runs in Georgia or Dallas, both of which I've recently watched. Then they left over conflict some thing with Wahoo and their absence made me think "mabye they weren't so stale, 'cause now this kind of REALLY sucks." Sullivan came back in eventually and his (rehashed, I guess, although I don't have any of the 1982 promos) cult promos did entertain me thoroughly as did his squashes. I totally dug Boob Roop here, which is an opinion I know isn't universal. But there was something notably moribund about the shows, and for me that's saying something given that the presentation of the CWF product (i.e. the look/feel of the studio) has never appealed to me. I've just always been irrationally less interested in seeing Florida work I might be way into if it was from the TBS Studios or Mid-Atlantic or Portland or whatever. I can't put my finger on why. Can't blame Solie (I don't think... although watching all that Florida shortly after even more Georgia, the guy did start to get REALLY repetitive). Anyway, watching all my Florida stuff, the highlight remained, as ever, the Bruce Walkup empty studio cage match. Gold. Runner up, probably to a clipped Funks-Briscos arena match that is just insanely hot. But overall, I didn't enjoy Florida nearly as much as any of the other territorial stuff I've been guzzling through over the past month. It definitely feels like a territory that wasn't what it used to be.
  3. TobyNotJason

    New Japan juniors in the late 90s

    It's a bit revelatory that he's also last NJ Junior I - a guy who hasn't watched any current product in 12-13 years ago - remember having a buzz. At the time it felt like "maybe he's the guy to snap the division out of its funk". Obviously, then, that didn't come to pass. Sad.
  4. Very much enjoy reading these. I sort of introduced myself in the other thread, but that was more "how I found this board", so here's my "wrestling origin" story. I'm Toby. Not Jason. I'm old, but I don't look it. I grew up in the same rich Minneapolis suburb Ric Flair did. Legit. Gordon Solie just name-dropped it on some 1985 Florida TV I was watching (not in reference to Flair - he was being coy). I'm pretty sure his parents lived like a mile away. I wasn't allowed to watch much TV other than the Dukes of Hazzard and live sports until 1985. My first wrestling memory was this neighbor kid giving me this retrospective play-by-play of this amazing wrestling thing he'd seen where there was gonna be a giant "battle royal" (WHOA! THAT SOUNDS AWESOME!) and the last guy to arrive for it had pulled up in this limo and you just saw his giant hand at first as he got out and then it was this dude HULK HOGAN who was SUPER AWESOME. That's how the kid told it to me, anyway. Thinking about it now, I think it must have an AWA thing... I feel like I was sufficiently young when this happened that it would've been before he jumped back to WWF. I never really figured it out. Maybe he made it up. Kids do that. But I spent MONTHS thinking about how cool the stuff the neighbor kid had told me was and wondering how I, too, could see this "pro wrestling" that sounded so magical. Anyway, sometime in 1985 the barriers slipped enough and I'd occasionally be able to catch a WWF syndie. Snuka and Steamboat were my instant favorites. I mean, they were all fast and did cool stuff from the top rope, while a lot of these guys were sooooo slow. At first I liked Hogan, but then I kind of didn't. By the time they showed the highlights of Muraco/Bundy destroying him I thought that was cool, I remember. (And wondered what this "Saturday Night's Main Event" thing was.) I went mental for the British Bulldogs when they came in. But even as a 10 year old, I was like "wait, how can this Terry Funk guy be branding that dude if there's no heat source for his branding iron, and also, wouldn't they arrest him if he were burning the flesh of another man?" (On rewatch now I realized they don't actually sell that he's legit branding people, but they create a kind of gray area such that the kid-me thought BRANDING FOR REALZ was what they were selling, and I didn't buy it.) I watched replays of Wrestlemania 2 ad nauseum. People shit on that PPV and I STILL love it. I can watch Randy Savage run in fear of George Steele all. day. long. I loved Steele at the time. Now I realize it was (mostly) Savage making that shit so entertaining (and it IS entertaining, no matter what people say), but I can still watch all the Steele/Savage stuff and be totally content. By 1986, though, I'd found Crockett's TBS show and Mr. Flair and the four fucking horsemen. At some point I figured out he was from my 'burb and that sealed my fandom. I started to really hate Hogan. I had like 3 wrestling magazines that I read over and over and over and over and over and I cannot tell you how much they fueled my imagination. Florida!?!?!? Memphis!?!?!? Wha.....? My favorite toy was the pro wrestling USA he-man dudes. I had the freebirds, martel/flair, roadies, longriders, the high flyers... I think jim garvin. I feel like a couple more. I had the AWA ring. I had this blood make up stuff I would put on them when the "bled" and kept a notebook full of results and champions. I was a pretty good booker for age 11. I knew dude's couldn't bleed every match and I knew you sometimes had to give a little push to guys you didn't like to make it mean something when other dude's killed them. (Buddy Roberts and Greg Gagne jump out at me. I'd put my TV belt on them.) By late 86/early 87 I could watch what I wanted and I consumed everything I possibly could. I watched WCCW and thought it was great. Crockett's syndicated programs was the stuff of dreams, but why did they always HAVE TO GO, TONY!?!??!?! My dad knew a guy who occasionally did ring announcing, and the only times I got to go to matches was when that dude would hook my dad up with tickets. I saw a WWF Met Center card Dec 28, 1985 (I just figured this out thanks to historyofwwe) that had a wild Steamboat/Muraco brawl that led to a return match. The ring announcer announced the return match and the stips and said he had the signed contract "here in his hands". I got the "signed contract" from my dad's friend. Which was in fact a sheet of paper stating word-for-word what the ring announcer's announcement had said, with Steamboat and Muraco's signatures. Hmmm.... I got to go to a WWF card at the St. Paul Civic Center that had a Savage/Steamboat cage match on it. I made a sign for Savage that had some bikini-clad Elizabeth pictures on it from a non-WWF wrestling magazine. Risque, I know. I was pretty much a heel fan by that point. Thanks to my dad's friend I got to meet Savage and Elizabeth backstage before the card. It was funny, because they legit had their own dressing room, totally away from everything else (I assume, since there was no one around at all). In light of all the Savage-crazy-jealousy stories, it adds up. I remember the dude was cool to me and Elizabeth was super nice. They signed my sign. Anyway, try as I might, I could never find my way to a Crockett show. They'd bring cards that were just STUPID loaded and all I'd ever get was a "we'll see". I became a *HUGE* UWF mark when that popped up in late 86 or early 87 and tried everything I could think of to beg my way to their '87 show at the Met Center (and I think a wrestlingclassics forum informs me we would have been 1st or 2nd row if we'd gone because NO ONE showed up), but I was skunked again. I did get my parents to spring for the AWA Christmas 86 PPV with The Rockers vs. Rose/Summers, and that was incredible. I can tell you, they absolutely did not make it any clearer than mud that the belts were not on line. Verne, you magnificent bastard. I still have the DVD transfer off my original tape. As a giant Dusty mark I did manage to beg as a late XMas present the Bunkhouse Stampede PPV. I was so stoked. Besides Flair, I was probably the biggest mark for Jim Ross of all people. Dude could sell me ANYTHING in 1987 and 1988. By WM 3 I was barely interested in WWF stuff at all, although Savage/Steamboat captivated me. I wanted Andre to win but knew that wouldn't happen. I spent a LOT of time thinking about the "NWA"'s production values and hoping/wishing they'd improve, because even though I liked it fine as is, I knew the dark arenas and primitive graphics were why all the kids at school only cared about the WWF. I drifted out a bit in late 88/89 as I got closer to high school but Flair/Steamboat sucked me back a little. I saw their Clash stuff, and then Flair v. Funk at the Clash was probably my last childhood hurrah before I stopped watching altogether, just before high school. Greatest Wrestling Fan Moment: One day in 1991 I had just gotten my driver's license and went to this nerd store in Dinkytown by the U of MN to sell some nerd games. (D&D, wargames, etc.) I walked past a bar called Fowl Play. This was a jocks-get-drunk-and-fall-down-then-try-to-get-date-rapey kinda place that no one who's over 22 really had a reason to go to. So I'm walking past one of the open doorways (it was a fine summer-ish day) carrying my box of nerdery and I look up at the man on the pay phone in the door and keep walking and then stop dead as my brain catches up with my feet and I just kinda of slowly walk backwards and look up at the man on the pay phone in the door way and say "You're Ric Flair," because it was. He said "yes I am." I said "cool". Then I went and sold my nerd games. But that was kind of great, and in retrospect I can't imagine how it was in that bar that afternoon: 40 year old Flair, about to jump to WWF, knocking 'em down with 18 year olds with fake IDs. I wonder if nudity ensued? (I checked at the time and neither company was in town, so I think this was literally in the middle of The Jump.) Renaissance/Smarky Period: In 1994 and 1995 I kept having conversations at punk rock shows about wrestling, and when I accidentally happened on some dude named The Crippler destroying some dude with a table on a TV show on Midwest Sports Channel that was definitely not WWF or WCW in 1995 I reached out to the dudes I'd talk about it with and within weeks we had a regular "date" for watching ECW. I jumped into the Monday Night Wars on like the 3rd week of Nitro and preferred WCW for the cruisers and Horsemen stuff until WWF started to get sneaky good. I stuck with it obsessively and accumulated way more tapes than I could afford via Lynch/Barnett/McAdams/Socha until the botched Invasion and went cold turkey until a 2007-ish binge, which resulted only in watching everything mid-south and the 1985 season of WWF All-Star Wrestling. I found this place because I decided to finally start watching the rest of the DVDs I splurged on in 2007-ish. So anyway, I like everything, as long as it's well done. I've been watching Memphis lately and even though the stuff I have is heavy on the promos/angles, there's enough work for me to be super pumped on Dundee and Lawler. I like the Fantastics more than most people. I LOVE Buddy Landell. LOVE. I enjoy watching Kobashi sweat. Proudest Achievement: There's an episode of Nitro from the Target Center where my buddy and I are in Lucha masks and I have him in the Torture Rack pretty much center screen right behind the ring for a good little while. Anyway, I have no illusions that I'm going to become a regular contributor, but this board is fantastic and the debates/discussions I've pored over thus far are frigging marvelous.
  5. TobyNotJason

    New Japan juniors in the late 90s

    I'm not saying there was a practical historical possibility the Juniors could've been "booked big" given all the circumstances, and that NJ dropped said ball. Rather, it's just that I was reading the comments here re: "WTF happened to the NJ Junior in the late 90's" and thinking, "Yeah, what DID happen, because I was there and loved them and then I didn't so much, so let me think about why." Maybe my ideas re: booking (esp. in-ring booking) have nothing to do with the decline of interest or "objective" match quality (if there was such a decline). I absolutely agree the small size of the division perforce tempted staleness, and I think your observation that the 6-man roster would also lead to a perception issue (how can this be a big deal when there are only 6 dudes) is spot on. They certainly screwed the pooch royally with the heavyweight squashes. A few flash pin stunners here and there and you could have had semi-mains for big cards featuring return matches. And why there couldn't be regular Jr/Heavy vs Jr/Heavy tags I just don't know. Man could tasty stuff be done with that. BTW, I forgot to comment before re: OJ's comment about Liger booking himself as a "less-than-fully-ace" ace. I could be totally remembering-out-my-ass wrongly here, but yeah: I absolutely felt like it was a bunch of mostly equal guys just trading wins with whatever hierarchy there was being booked insufficiently strictly. Another reason I gravitated more and more to AJ. Another thing I should rewatch to see if my "feel" was wrong. If it was, I wonder what's responsible for that. Maybe I just wasn't paying enough attention?
  6. TobyNotJason

    New Japan juniors in the late 90s

    Thank you sir. Definitely was. But the juniors, for all the reasons of presentation/booking I stated as well as for the simple fact that there were so few of them, started feeling that way to me sooner. I should clarify: I was never thinking "gee, NJ Juniors suck now." It just didn't grab my soul and make it feel warm and special anymore. I've never met any Japanese fans, so I have no perspective, but by that time I'd sort of figured out "waitaminnit... 'we' all think this dude is a superstar and have this notion that the blessed Japanese respect smaller guys, but how come they're never near the top of the card and the crowds are never visibly/audibly stoked on matches in the way they are for top-level heavyweight stuff with big angles/heat/pushes backing it up? Oh. Because they're kind of marginally more over than WCW Cruisers... just more established." Well, I was getting Barnett TV comps pretty regularly. (All the TV, but he'd cut out the Baba comedy matches and lots of pedestrian NJ heavyweight stuff.) I was certainly behind "live", but it was hardly a question of watching too much at once, if that's what you're suggesting. And getting several months of TV at once didn't affect my enjoyment of anything else in the same way. I totally read the same stuff. Herb Kunze was where? I remember that name well but can't place it. Well, like I said, I was kind of a fool, costs not withstanding. I figured Barnett would give me everything I "needed" from the TV, and I'd get 8 and 6 hour EP tapes from lynch with 3-5 smaller tapes on them for... was it $25 each? The quality was still ace since it came from his masters. But I never did "match pulling" comps. Sorry if it came across like I was saying "Liger's booking sucked." I understood the rivalries and factions and it was all fine. But it wasn't exactly the height of (happy-making) hate-y-ness, nor of (AJ-ish) professional rivalry/contempt. I was just saying it was inherently limited by some structural things. The in-ring booking was limited because high spots requiring nobody be "too injured" were required at the end, making the mat-work of dubious import. And they just weren't a big deal to the fans or the office, and you knew it, and given that AJ had spent 5 years presenting tons and tons of The Biggest Deal Ever, I ended up drawn into that. Regardless, I'm totes busting out some Barnett TV from 98 and watching the Juniors matches just to see how they strike me today, when I haven't watched any puro for years and years.
  7. TobyNotJason

    New Japan juniors in the late 90s

    Absolutely they did. Just like crowds did in mid-late 90s WCW with smaller dudes they weren't "supposed" to care about. But that kind of "holy shit this is cool" heat just isn't the same as what erupts when there's a buzz of anticipation before the match because of What We're About To See, and similarly I doubt the appreciation I or any other smart fan has watching the former often touches the feeling we have when we know match X is a blood feud or for a title the promotion builds around or a mentor/student thing or whatever and it fucking delivers. Granted, there's a different and savory satisfaction when you appreciate the salient beauty of some random studio squash or WorldWide 8 minute thingee or Nitro match Bischoff is talking about the NWO over or, indeed, 1999 NJ Jr. tag match that doesn't mean shit to the crowd outside of "ooh ahh" (nor to the office, at all), but does that really measure up to the fully satiated expectations that can only result when you go in knowing the match "should" be Momentous? So yeah, pre-match perspective matters, and WRT the late 90s NJ Jrs., eventually even if something ended up being extraordinary from a purely in-ring standpoint, it still began its life, to me, as "OK, here we go with the three NJ Junior matches Barnett pulled from the otherwise crappy NWO-centered NJ TV this month because the dudes involved can at least fucking go." I'm guessing this subconsciously happened to a bunch of other people who were buying/pimping, and that affected what trickled down to 2013. (It was subconscious to me, at the time, to be clear.) You're saying out of 6 full years, there are only 8 matches in their respective yearly top 10s, and that's only if you limit the pool of candidates to Japan? That's just tragic considering the talent involved. With better booking (both in and out of the ring) and something at least resembling a company-wide push, the core NJ Jr. dudes should have been BIG TIME. (And for a promotion constantly concerned with its legitimacy, you'd think NJ could and should have pushed their weight divisions with something at least vaguely alluding to parity, especially in a country that produces and respects the shit out of boxers fighting in weight classes most Americans have never heard of.) Come to think of it, maybe that's why I came to prefer the Mich Pro/Toryumon stuff: at least those guys were the reason for the show I was watching. The people in the crowd were there to see them settle their issue. They were kings of their mountains and I "knew" that and it affected my perception, even as I also knew those mountains, like all mountains in any promotion anywhere, were kayfabe terrain. That's really interesting. If somebody had asked me about puro any time after 1998 or so I can see giving them a highly qualified referral to the Super J as a "hook", but there's no way I would've been like "this is the best stuff". And since I never picked up any Juniors other than TV after 97 because I chose to spend $$ on other things, I wouldn't have been able to discuss or trade. Maybe lots of other kids were in the same boat when you were looking in 2001. I mean, the last puro I bought was 2000 or so and at that point it had been four years since I'd specifically sought out NJ Juniors stuff. I picked up a few more Toryumon/Michinoku Pro things and liked it fine, but evidently the NJ Jrs. stuff I'd seen in TV form didn't pique my interest. I think I can safely say that's because: the heavy drama, it was lacking. I don't know if I'd call the way I felt in 95/96 "superficial appreciation", but I get what you're saying and agree that to a significant degree movez/innovation is why Juniors stuff was hot when it was hot on the internet. Lots of people were like me in 1995: 20-ish, hadn't watched anything for several years... naturally you gravitate to stuff that makes you say "holy shit" instantly. Thus the contemporaneous love for early ECW. There's also the fact that Otani and Kanemoto were fairly fresh, and fresh is always better than "two years later". And Otani fucking ruled it. But there absolutely was not a "deeper level" to the NJ Jrs, was there? I mean, forget AJ deep. There wasn't even the basic depth of Kevin Sullivan and Austin Idol wanting to murder each other dead in the Spring of 1980 in Georgia or Bret and Shawn visibly swallowing bile in the WM 12 build. Minimally, any compelling storylines there may have been never came across to non-Japanese speaking me from the ring work. There were factions, and I appreciated certain dudes dickishness or smugness or whatever, but on a big picture level... And if I'm overstating that circa 1996, there's no way I am by 1998.
  8. TobyNotJason

    New Japan juniors in the late 90s

    This is my first post. Skip to "To the point", bolded below, if my background doesn't matter/you want to see how badly I screw the pooch. I found this board via the Where the Big Boys Play podcast which in turn I found when searching for information on something I was watching on a bunch of Mid-Atlantic discs I bought 5 years ago but only got around to watching in the last few weeks. I've spent the last few days reading some fascinating debates over absurd (and awesome) minutia (see Bret v. Flair thread and references to other megathreads therein) that's made me equally happy and sleep-deprived. Anyway, this topic caught my eye as I guess I always sort of wondered to myself what had happened to the mid-90's "shine" of the NJ Juniors. Lemme back up to explain where I'm coming from. I lurked a little on rspw (Seeing the words "Head, Tennis Racket to the back of Ricky Morton's" in 1994 in a college computer lab was one of my first glimpses that there were other reasonably intelligent people who harbored a love for the thing I hadn't watched since 1990 or so but for whatever reason was perusing on usenet), bought tons of puro and some territories stuff from barnett/lynch/mcadams/etc. in the middle and late 1990s, read the DVDVRs in their infancy, etc., but I really haven't watched anything new since dropping out after the botched invasion angle in 2001 (although I did see most PPVs from the early 2000s in a lump a few years after the fact). Anyway, around 5 years ago an old wrestling buddy lent me a tape of one of the first ROH shows and I went "oh yeah, I forgot, I LOVE pro wrestling". I bought the first five years of ROH DVDs (and found it incredibly frustrating in myriad ways, at times boring, but still enjoyable overall) and watched it in no time. I joined the DVDVR board and went apeshit buying territorial stuff and comps., converted all my old tapes to DVD, watched everything Mid-South that was out there (I don't think the Houston set was around yet and I haven't seen that stuff), then came up for air and wondered where the last two months and my money had gone. I consequently spent the last 5 years or so ignoring the existence of 1000+ unwatched (but very well organized!) DVDs I'd just bought and went back to real life. A few weeks ago, for no reason I can identify, I decided I should at least watch all the territory-specific dvds I'd gotten, even if frequently on fast-forward. (Because how much Ole Anderson can I take? Not. Much. Georgia became an absolute CHORE once the Freebirds turned baby, save for when Piper or Flair was in and on the stick... except that I actually found things to like about the CWG era, which seems to get shit on. Thanks to my internet wrestling blackout I'd never heard of the Devil Blue stuff, but HOLY HELL! And I almost didn't stop FFing when Ron Starr wrestled the first time, but I now know that would have been foolhardy indeed. Dude's AWESOME.) So that's the probably relatively ignorant and from the seemingly-likely-consensus viewpoint of this board somewhat unreconstructed (but still old-school respecting) smarky place I come from. To the point: What I remember re: the decline of the NJ Juniors is that at one point when I was getting Barnett's Japan comps the NJ Juniors were the thing I was most stoked on. And juniors stuff is absolutely the stuff I started off being the biggest fan of: the Super J and the War Super J were the first two complete show tapes I bought, and I actually found 6/3/94 kind of boring when I first watched it on one of the old RecTapes (which in my defense was like 3rd generation and looked like total shit). Anyway, sometime in '97 the NJ Juniors started to get vaguely samey to me in an "I don't quite want to admit to myself that I'm not digging this the way I used to way". I kept thinking it would turn around: Takaiwa seemed pretty cool and was "different", at least. But I didn't love him, and then there was Kendo Ka Shin. Oof. Looking back now, I think what happened was that the booking and the work was samey, at least as compared to AJ at the time. Lemme s'plain. At some point on the third or fourth or sixth viewing, the classic 93 and 94 AJ stuff on the rec tapes I had (and the 95 AJ stuff on Brian Socha's Best of 1995 Series if anybody remembers that dealer) just clicked for me in a "what horsehit drugs was I on!??!" way. AJ's booking was deep. It was smart. It was evocative and it was epic. Not only were these guys throwing "holy shit" bombs (of the kind everybody at the time dug regardless of context), portraying distinct, believable and engaging personae, telling an in-ring story in the basic "body part-and-selling" way, and wrestling incredibly tight and mechanically-sound matches, but the Whole, including the macro-narratives in which the ring work was everywhere bound up, was consistently both greater than and inestimably more important than these (cool) parts-as-such. Meanwhile, NJ Juniors was being presented (on two if not three levels) as being little more THAN the parts (some of which were admittedly pretty bitchin' parts). Not only was the "basic" in-ring booking/selling/storytelling not on AJ's level (thus the "NJ juniors often just do pointless matwork, then do highspots, trade finishers, then its over" critique), but the very fact that NJ Jr. matches were always being shown JIP and/or clipped didn't exactly help me as a consumer engage with what I was seeing as anything more than (relatively) undifferentiated go-go-go, regardless of my intellectual recognition that this was a just an editorial/promotional decision and not one I ought to let affect my perception/enjoyment. And of course, the clipping/JIPing is part and parcel with NJ's overall (lack of) push of the Juniors, which very much affected the way NJ crowds viewed and responded to Juniors matches, which obviously affects "our" enjoyment thereof. The workers might be doing better stuff than the average unmotivated NJ late 90's Heavyweight match, but it goes without saying that the most basic in-ring NJ match - say, Choshu/Vader 8/90 - is how much more awesome than it would otherwise be when the audience is engaged by the "importance" of what's in front of them. And regardless of resulting heat, perceived "importance" affects everybody, even smart internet puro fans, then or now. You can be listening to loud music while you watching a match so the heat per se doesn't matter, but if you know the match you're watching is storyline important, that affects how you process what happens. How do you get anything like that engagement when its obvious that nothing you're watching Really Matters, which is what JIP presentation, NJ's non-pushing, and less than perfect in-ring booking/style added up to? (Incidentally, reading/listening to this whole Flair/Lawler/Funk/Bret-as-a-jumping-off-point GOAT thing [and by the way: Again, I'm in awe of the beautiful nerdery on display in these forums], I was struck by how much Flair benefits from his own variant of Bret's Best Ever gimmick or Shawn's late period "guy who has good matches gimmick", albeit in a roundabout "the people there at the time had laser-focus on what was happening because of what it Meant because he was Champion and that contemporaneous engagement carries through the tapes and out your screen and affects your current perception of his matches and hence his Greatness no matter how objective you try to be" way.) The facts that (1) the Jrs. could and did do the flippy go-go inherently-entertaining-and-it-gets-a-pop-so-it's-inherently-tempting-to-put-a-bunch-of-it-in-the-match spectacle spot stuff they were doing/innovating at the time and (2) the Jrs. were not the focus of the promotion and never headlined or came near headlining and thus weren't going to be presented with gravitas and weren't going to be a Big Deal to their live audience meant they were never going to get anything like the deliberate, "deeply story-driven"/long-term narrative arc programs NOR even so much as the in-ring booking the AJ heavies were getting, and you kind of knew that, so why keep watching religiously? If Liger'd somehow tried to book it "deeper" and in doing so had sometimes dialed back the go-go, the deep booking would probably just have been lost on the crowd, and the people who weren't really there to see the Juniors anyway would have had even less to pop for. How do you do slow builds in front of a crowd there to see something/someone else, and how do you call back to stuff people forgot about because it was never the focus of your bosses/promotion? I know, I know, it's not like they had never done call backs in the Juniors, nor like they still didn't do basic call backs. But they weren't what the average Japanese fan was focused on and their stories were never going to be presented as truly Important. And without deeper stories/arcs, the go-go shit burned me out to some degree. By the same token, sure, today on a "mix tape" broken up by other stuff or in youtube doses I could totally enjoy a shit-ton of (this is an analogy) Benoit/Eddy/Dean/Ultimo/Liger/Lynn Nitro/Saturday Night/Pro/WorldWide matches from the period when they basically didn't have a program or when their programs/belts were a total afterthought. But in the 90s that stuff got less and less interesting over time, to the point that I wondered why I was bothering when the in-ring match was anything less than absolute top-drawer. How much more intrinsically compelling were Benoit and Eddy's WWF matches when they Meant Something Big and were booked (in every sense) that way, including in-ring? Also and again: Kendo fucking Ka Shin. I fucking HATED that guy, and he was everywhere. Is that an opinion that's seen reevaluation? I know when I rewatched some of my tapes when converting them to DVD 5 or 6 years ago I found him less offensive than I'd remembered, but still, he was everywhere in the stead of guys like Eddy and Benoit, and that's a bad trade. So yeah, the one omnipresent new guy getting the mega-push seemed to suck some of the remaining fun out. By the time Wagner Jr. got there... I dunno, it had been enough disappointment under the bridge that he didn't do anything more for the overall NJ Jr. product than make it a little more "watchable". Things were still JIP and clipped and never "authentically" meaningful. I mean, there were 25 minute+ title match tags that came across (at least then... maybe re-eval. is in order) as merely... long. I mean, I fucking love watching Condrey and Eaton destroy Tommy Rogers or Bobby Fulton with comparatively rudimentary offense for 10-12 solid minutes at a time on a one-camera no-commentary Mid-South house show, but the crowd cares and you know what's going on at any given moment ("they're showing them up"/"they're killing him and savoring it") so you stay "in it". NJ Juniors got to a point where it just felt like "they're wrestling a long match because the title is on the line and that's what you do, but nothing happening here feels like it matters much since they're just going to hit a bunch of finishers at the end and EVERYBODY knows that, and moreover nobody gives much of shit since they're constantly reminded in every imaginable manner how Less Than Important the Juniors are." I find it interesting to read here that no one was keeping up via comm. tapes anymore at the time, since I remember placing a $600 order with Lynch for nothing but unclipped commercial AJ stuff (EP speed for value!), with a handful of Michinoku (and maybe super-early Toryumon) as the only concessions to my former Junior love. I'm guessing what ditch said is true re: lots of solid stuff. Late 90s juniors would likely be well served by a yearbook based re-eval where the NJ Juniors are allowed to be "merely" fun little matches amidst a sea of whatever else instead of never important or vital, as it seemed at the time. Yes, large blocks of anything get samey, but when the matches you're watching all necessarily lack gravitas, internally and externally, that's a problem, and I think the booking/positioning of the Juniors-as-a-whole contributed to late 90's puro-watchers moving on to other things.
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